Welcome to my life.
The life of a Marine's wife,
registered nurse,
dog owner,
wanna-be photographer,
and budding writer.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Love

You've captured me again
Love
You steal my heart

ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.
So, I don't know what could ever beat the obvious news. So, to restate the obvious: Timmy and I are going to have a child. A real, honest to God, baby. Most likely a red head. I'm like 99% sure it's gonna be red headed.

WHAT?! It's not a dog, I promise. That would be really awkward, considering it's making my abdomen pooch out uncomfortably and is causing me to burp uncontrollably.

So here's the timeline on that (without some obviously left out details):

I was in Europe most of the middle of January (which was AWESOME), and I promise that I'll blog about that experience once I get some photos back. I've got some epic superlatives lined up.

I came home on January 25. I had a bad cold.

January 26: I was like "What the heck, I'll take a pregnancy test. You know, just to make sure I don't hop an embryo up on cough syrup. It's a long shot anyway, we're not really trying or anything."

BAZINGA. Before I could even finish urinating the stick was already reading positive. So, I positively took 7 more pregnancy tests (I'm not even kidding right now) and promptly hyperventilated into the arms of my wide-eyed, equally as shocked husband.

Then, we went to church. I prayed. I asked myself "What in the world am I going to do?" I begged God to ease my mind and held onto my husband's hand like it was the last bread crumb that was ever going to be offered to me.

I was 3 weeks, 6 days pregnant.

...I wasn't kidding about the tests. Seriously, I invested over $50 in disbelief.





5 weeks, 4 days
I began vomiting more than I ever have in my life. It got a lot worse.
The day of snowpacalypse 2014, will forever live in infamy. Not because it snowed. But, because I was so ill I could barely lift my head. I was snowed in with no electricity and no way of leaving my home safely.

This one time I got food poisoning from Olive Garden. I haven't eaten there in 5 years.
This was worse.
But, I digress. However, like the day I was puking up spaghetti, I will always detest the snow. Always.
ALWAYS.



7 weeks, 2 days with child.
I saw a flickering teeny tiny heart beat.
152 beats per minute.
I smiled.
Then, I vomited.





12 weeks, 1 day knocked up.
Sarah went with me to my second ultrasound appointment.
We have a real baby. A baby that bounces up and down, lounges back on it's arms, sucks it's thumb and does flips in my belly that I can't feel.
I smiled again.
I puked a little less.

13 weeks impregnated.
Come on, it was April Fool's Day. You can't waste that. 
It's not a joke if you're telling the truth. 
So, with the help of one of my very best friends, Valerie, we created a really cute social media announcement (our immediate family and CLOSE CLOSE friends knew about the pregnancy WAY before this, between 4-8 weeks).
It was epic.

The pictures were released periodically throughout the day, leading up to the big reveal right before bed time. :)




Now, we're here (14 weeks, 4 days).
There are many truths I've come to terms with. There are also many shocking pregnancy related shenanigans occurring that I can't wrap my head around. So to those first time moms and people curious about what pregnancy has done to me:

1. Shock, disbelief and grief are normal. 
I'm not going to lie, when I first saw that positive pink line, I immediately began sobbing. My marriage is great. I expected we'd be trying for at least a few months. I never imagined that we would get pregnant the first round. Never. Don't get me wrong, before the positive...I was irrevocably secure in the fact that we were ready for anything. 

But, as soon as the pink line of "your life is about to change" turned positive, my world came crashing down. 

I'm too young. I like my marriage the way it is. I don't want to share my perfect and amazing husband. My body is going to be unrecognizable. We were going on vacation. The house isn't sold yet! I was just about to transition to crossfit! I was gonna compete in the mudrun! I was starting to have recognizable abdominal muscles! A what has to come out of WHERE?!

I want to sit here and tell you that I was over the moon. That I was ecstatic. That I was hopelessly, helplessly, immediately in love. But, I wasn't. I was the most terrified I've ever been in my life. I felt like a child. I was guilty about this.

When I saw the baby on ultrasound, it was amazing. But, once he/she disappeared after the appointment, I went back to being shocked and in disbelief.

Then, I learned (after talking to MANY people)...this is kind of normal. Especially for first timers. With time and support, I've come to anticipate what the coming months and years have to offer. However, it's not been an immediate, life altering love. It's not like the movies. Unless the movie was The Exorcist (I was scared and projectile vomiting, let's be real). 

It's getting better. Trust me. The further I get, the more exciting it becomes.

2. You burp a lot.
Call me crazy, but I didn't expect that. Nor did I expect water to give me heartburn. Nor did I expect to ever HAVE heartburn. 

3. You actually feel like you have an alien in you.
No, I can't feel it yet. Duh. However, I feel WEIRD. 

There's no other way to explain it. My body absolutely does not belong to me. I don't even remember feeling normal after 5+4. It's like laying on a pillow, even though you aren't visibly showing. Feeling hung over 24/7. Not being able to poop. Peeing too much. Vomiting your life down the toilet. I remember wishing that I could bargain with God, "God, if you take this nausea away, you can chop off my left arm. I don't use it anyway. Please, please." I know that several times Timmy has looked at me so pitifully that I thought I was about to be buried. Coworkers actually told me that I looked like I had BEEN buried, then risen from the dead.

Luckily, a lot of this is starting to fade. I'm told my color is coming back nicely. 

4. Being absolutely terrified of being pregnant and not being pregnant at the same time.
Though I struggled and still sometimes struggle with feelings of disbelief and greif for my life as I know it...I am equally terrified of something happening to this baby. 

Every ultrasound is a sigh of relief, and a shock of reality. It's like living in two separate worlds. 

5. Be still and know that He is God.
I've had a real journey in trust. 
It's been eye-opening. 
To know that my Creator has trusted us with life, a precious human that He loves more than anything in the universe, is a true gift.



But anyway, I look forward to growing emotionally (partially physically) and experiencing this journey. It'll be an adventure. Everyone knows how much I like a good adventure.

I just can't wait to be swinging kettle bells again. 


TOMATO, THE HUBS.
In just a few short weeks, he begins a new journey as a series commander on Parris Island in Beaufort, SC. Our new home.

Our old home, is selling in a week and a half. We haven't even started packing yet. 

Timmy has been a lot more emotionally stable about the baby situation. He really is a rock. He brings me back down to earth when I'm passed Pluto. I can't imagine doing this without him here with me.

He is also very annoying. So handsome. Anger-inducing. Wonderful. 

I love hormones. 

THE BOYS.
Alpha is now a cat. 

Zero, loves everything...like always. 




 Song of the Day:

Captured by The Digital Age


Friday, January 10, 2014

You been sold, been used and it changed you

I want to reach you
I want to reach you
You been bought, been seen and been given to
I want to reach you
I want to reach you

ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.
I recall promising you guys another blog post. Hehe. So here we go, "Ashley, what are your new New Year's resolutions?" I'll tell you what they are:

1. Pay off debt and save money.

"How much debt do you have?"

Enough. Over my 26 years on earth I've accumulated student loan debt, credit card debt, car debt, credit card debt, student loan debt and more credit card debt.

I will say that the car that I drive is paid in full and has been since 2011. That, in itself, is a blessing.

I don't want to lead you wrong though. In comparison to most people our age, we really don't have that much debt. Trust me, we're grateful for the fact that immediately following college we were able to secure careers that were more than capable of sustaining us and our financial needs. We realize that many people don't have that guarantee.

Most websites I've researched state that people in their 20's have an AVERAGE of $45,000 in debt. WHOA. We don't have half that, but it's still a hinderance.

I don't know about ya'll, but I'd rather not and never say I did.

Soooooo, Timmy and I are on a kind of strict spending budget until we pay off unsecured debt and student loans. I think it could work for you too.

"How are you going to pay off your debt, Ashley?"

Very carefully and very deliberately.

So here we go, the formula!

First, we give 10-15% to God. 
God has blessed us immensely with earning power, shelter, heat and every single thing we need to be healthy and happy. The best thing to do is to honor blessing with blessing. If you're worried about giving to a church "because I don't know where the money goes. It probably goes to that preacher's porsche"...A. Find a new church because obviously you can't trust the spending habits of your own or B. Consider giving to something else charitable....like a food pantry, women's shelter, homeless ministry, drug recovery programs, crisis pregnancy centers, missionaries, etc.

Also, if you can't give that percentage to God (or charity), then give what you can. Remember the widow (Mark 12:42). The point is, you think of others before your self. Give blessing to get blessing.

Second, we save 10%.
One thing my grandmother (coincidentally, the most frugal person I've ever met) always stressed to me while growing up was to pay myself first and to make sure that I had an emergency fund. Also, that I never spent my income to capability (no matter how low-earning my job was). Seriously, she told me this while I worked at FoodLion. I made 150 bucks every two weeks and walked out of her house at 16 years old with quite a nest egg (for someone who was 16, anyway).

I believe the worst thing a person can do is to be a slave to every penny they earn. We should always attempt to spend below our means. Always. Living paycheck to paycheck is sometimes necessary in this culture, but...you should make an attempt to put something away.

Again, if 10% isn't something you can do...start with 5% or even lower. The point is, put something away...even if it's 10 bucks a paycheck.

Then, DO NOT TOUCH IT. Watch it grow!

Third, we pay off the necessary bills. 
This is the part where you need to do some soul searching. You need to ask yourself: What is really important and what can I get rid of?

Necessary:
Water
Sewer
Electricity/Gas
Medical insurance
Car Insurance
Mortgage/Rent
Home Insurance/Renter's Insurance

Yep, that's about it.

NOT necessary:
Cable
Internet
Smart phone plans
Magazine subscriptions
Xbox Live, etc

Yeah, anything that you can live without, even if you don't want to live without it.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and lie to you. I have Cable, Internet, an iPhone and love me some Southern Living. HOWEVER, Timmy and I have had serious discussions about canceling cable and keeping a Netflix subscription which is only 8 bucks per month.  Unfortunately, we are contracted into our phones. I recommend that if you can get out of that...do it. Seriously, smart phones are making society ignorant, but that's another rant for another day.

All these other things that can be gotten rid of and you just can't do it, (Darn you Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and southern cottage style decorating!!) they will fall into a category we're going to discuss in a moment.

Fourth, you kill the debt. FAST.
Cue Dave Ramsay! No seriously, I don't even know what this guy sounds like (I don't even know what he LOOKS like...I imagine him as Doctor Phil) I just know that he's got some principles that I've heard spewed in well-meaning and friendly company for years. He's got something right though. His programs have led a lot of people out of the clutches of debt. So, I have adopted my fair share of his teachings (though I have never actually heard him in my life). Anyway, it's common sense. Use your brain, you'll be alright.

I think good ol' Dave says you should pay off your smallest debt first and then add what you were paying (once the debt is paid off) to the payments of your next lowest debt. The snowball effect or something of that nature.

Well, I do things a TAD differently. I pay what has the dang highest interest off first. Ha. Take that!
Why am I going to sit around and let a credit card with a 10% APR accumulate interest while I'm paying off a debt that has a 0% interest rate? Stupid.

However, make sure you know that if you have a 0% interest rate or financing that you pay off the amount owed before any offers attached to it expire. Now, if your offer expires in a month? Yeah, I'd focus on that.

Seriously though, you need to find what works best for you here. What debt is causing more debt? What needs to be paid off first?

For us, it's the stuff gaining interest.
Sorry for the tangent.

When you determine what debt needs to be paid off first, give it all you can.

"How do I determine how much I can pay off?"

Fifth, you give yourself CASH allowance.
Out of this cash allowance comes everything else you need and want. Including, but not limited to, clothing, gas, groceries, gym memberships, date nights, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Southern Living, etc.

My husband and I have recently started budgeting this money into envelopes that coincide with what they should be spent on.

We have envelopes for: allowance, food, gas, date night, household sharing (cleaning goods, etc) and the barber shop (side effect of being married to the military). Once that cash is gone...it. is. gone. So, spend well.

These envelopes should contain the absolute LOWEST amount of money you can get by on. Trust me, you can get by on a lot less than you lead yourself to believe. Learn to coupon, learn what's important.

The number you have left...THROW IT AT YOUR DEBT.

Sixth, lock up your credit/debit cards.
Our credit cards are in the gun safe, we shred them when they're paid off (keeping one copy, in case of emergencies, in the gun safe). Put your debit card in the trunk of your car (or somewhere that you can't easily access it. Get it out of your wallet). This way, you are less tempted to spend.

For instance, if you're in Target, and you're all like..."I just NEED this $50 quilted bed throw!" and/or at  Palmetto State Armory and are like, "I need this new scope for the AR15!"; you'll have to go out to your car in the pouring rain or go home and unlock your safe to get the stupid card out. By the time you've done all that...you think about what you really need, and how ignorant you're being.

Or like my grandma always said, "Wait three days and then ask yourself if you still want it." I don't know why the magical delineation of three days, but there you have it. Wait at least three days, grandmas can't tell lies.

"How do you keep up with all this?!"

Glad you asked. I mostly do it all in my head, but this year I've used the help of some tools to keep up with everything in once place.

What you will need:
3 Ring Binder
Tab Dividers (I have 16) with pockets on both sides
The nifty little pocket protectors that you used to use for presentations in high school
Loose leave paper
Envelopes
Printer paper/Printer/Ink

There are TONS  of online resources for printing out your own budget material. I used a number of these sites to get exactly those tools that were necessary.

Monthly Budget Printable
Like everything you ever need for budget printables
Oh look! More printables!
Here's some printable yearly calendars too!
checkbook registers (seriously, you don't have to PAY for these)


My binder is set up as such:
I've got my average percentages sheet in the front.
Behind that is a coupon folder ( I keep up with those).
Then, a bill payment checklist, so that I know what bills I've paid.

Each tab is labeled with a month (x12 months)
The remaining dividers are labeled: Debt (for which I keep track of all the debt I pay off), Savings (for which I keep up with my savings totals, we have two savings accounts [emergency and vacation]), photography (so I can keep up with how much I have brought in over my regular income in donations, those donations also go to debt and photography equipment as needed); tax receipts (to keep up with barber shop visits, scrubs and any itemized deductions from the year).

I have two pocket protectors for each month:
The first keeps my monthly calendar with when bills are due labeled, as well as paydays. Behind that is my monthly budget.
The second keeps my check book register, and behind that is an expense tracker (that I keep for my personal use for cash allowance, so I can see where money is going).

When you open up the tab for the month there is a pocket on the divider, one side is bills to be paid, and then the other side are paid bills.

Photos!:




 Yeah, not my finest photography, but you get my point.

Anyway, since this post was about 6 light years long (light years measure distance, btw), I'll get to my other goals in a later post.

I promise I'm getting better about posting!
It's a goal!




Verse of the Day:

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

-Mark 12:43-44 (NIV)



Song of the Day:

Protection by Future of Forestry

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Awaken my soul, come awake

To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as You did at first


ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.

I'm just gonna go with the pack here, and say, I cannot believe this year is over. I mean, weren't we just getting started here?!

Now, it's gone. Another year of life has passed us by. In it's place leaves a feeling of renewed hope and strength. Now, we all feel like we can start over. I can feel the perpetual weight leaving me as we speak.

2013, I can truly say that you've been the best of my life. The lessons I learned in 2013 are numerous and invaluable. I finally feel like I'm starting to be OKAY with growing up. I'm finally ready to start this new year and live out the adventure that it brings. I'm sure times will get tough, and I'm sure I'll know boundless blessings. Bring. It. On. 2014.

So, last year ( I still can't believe I'm saying that).
Last year, I vowed that it would not be just another year that my resolutions didn't come to pass. So, honestly and truly, I attempted them with all my might.

Here's where we got. We'll do my top 3.

1. Go to church. 
Well, we've been rocking out at Calvary Chapel since February 2013. Truly, this has been one of the greatest and most wonderful decisions we ever made as a married couple and individually. My life has been transformed. Going to church, learning the Bible book by book, word by word has been eye opening for me. I've never loved Jesus on this level and have never truly acknowledged His love for me. So, here we are.

We hardly ever miss service. I do quiet time at 4:30 am. I prayer journal on the daily, among many other monumental changes. I can actually feel and see God working in my life. It has been quite a ride. My heart continues to change, and I'll always remember 2013 as the year that God brought me to my knees repetitively. All I can think of is the song "How He Loves Us" and the line "...loves like a hurricane. I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy."

Guess what this love has done for me? It's not made me hateful and bigoted, It's made me love people again. The world was beginning to take that from me. God gave it back.

Truly. What a Mighty God we serve.

Calvary Chapel Lexington


2. Be a better photographer.
I have been given some AMAZING opportunities in 2013. I have shot with wonderful photographers. I've rubbed elbows with the finest and have eaten so much wedding food that I could probably tell you exactly who your vendors should be.

I've forged friendships and have improved my skills in immeasurable ways. I've invested time, money and stress into something I love.

Sometimes, I've been so busy with photography that I've found myself not having a day without it. It. has. been. awesome.

God only knows where I'll go with this, but I've been enjoying the ride. I'm not the best. I'll never be the best. But, I continue to learn from the best, hope for the best and try my best.

All in all, I'm incredibly happy with my hobby and where I've been going with it.

My Photography Page







3. Run a 5K and loose 15 lbs.
Check and KIND OF check.

I may not have lost 15 lbs, but I've gained pounds of muscle and monumental amounts of strength. My health has been on an upward roller coaster since June, after several episodes of vomiting and literally pushing myself to pure exhaustion. Some days I couldn't even sit on the toilet because my quads couldn't bear the weight. My body has been put through trials and tribulation of all kinds.

I've got a new found love for cross fit type movement, I've learned about proper diet and lifestyle and most importantly, when I look in the mirror...I actually like the person I'm looking at. I like who she is becoming and what she's done. I can't wait to see what the future holds as far as health and fitness.

Twisted Sisters Bootcamp




For those of you who can't help but keep reading...what's next?

I'll tell you what's next. SO SO much. 

But, here's the cliff hanger: I'll post more about resolutions and my plans to keep them...later this week.

Bahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No seriously, there will be links and plans and brainstorming. Just you wait and see. 


Song of the Day:
Fall Afresh by Jeremy Riddle

Verse of the Day:
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then, you will learn God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
-Romans 12:2

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oh, Your love is a symphony

All around me
Running through me
Oh, your love is a melody
Underneath me
Running to me



ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.
It's been so long since I've been here, I scare remember how to do this. To say that my life has "changed in so many ways" would be a gross understatement. I haven't done this since December.  To say that I took my last blog post seriously would also be an understatement. Shortly after it's completion, I did ask myself about my regrets and what I've been doing wrong. Was I the person I wanted to be? The answer, simply, was...no. I wasn't. I can't sugar coat that. I was living day to day in a state of boredom and the act of putting one foot in front of the other. Complacency, the most dangerous state of mind that can ever be achieved. 

It's strange how when you get older, certain things begin "clicking." What is that all about? All those "I told you so" moments passed down from the generations before you start making sense. I am still under the strong impression that you should begin life the smartest you'll ever be, and every year after that you should progressively lose intelligence. But, since that isn't the way life works...we have to wait for the "clicks." 

For example, take advantage of life while you are young. I was constantly looking for excuses. Well, I have to work. I have to get some sleep. I can't do that, I'm too tired. I'm not motivated enough to get out of bed in the morning and do xyz. Before you know it, the excuses start becoming your life. I don't want my life to be an excuse. 

Don't get me wrong, I can't complain about much. My life has been a miraculous blessing and I've experienced some wonderful and exhilarating things. However, I came to the point in life where I asked myself, "Do I want to have moments of awesome? Or would I rather live my life awesomely?" 

Fast forward to June of this year. A change began to take place. 

I'm looking at the goal list on the right side of this page right now. Some of these things have been achieved. Some of them I laugh about, long story short...some of these goals need to be modified. We'll breakdown what's been going on in categories. Let's start with the most obvious.

FITNESS AND CLEAN EATING:
As the Facebook world is perfectly aware, I've been on this journey for about approximately 5ish months. 

I work out 4+ times a week, vigorously. 
I have completely stopped drinking alcohol (more on this later).
I've ran a 5K in 26 minutes (I still hate running). 
I've accomplished a hand-stand push up (I get to about 6 in a row). 
I have completely stopped drinking soda (Seriously, flame retardant in Diet Mtn Dew, gross). 
I've lost 13 pounds since June. 

For the first time in my life, I know my body is far more capable than I ever gave it credit for. My entire view on health and fitness has drastically changed over the course of this year. I started out believing I knew everything, and actually knowing nothing (much like the entirety of my life). I look forward to the feeling after a good work out. I know that the scale doesn't determine your health and shouldn't determine how you feel about your body.  I've learned that my body will keep going, long after my mind has failed. I know there are no excuses for not getting out there and doing something with my health. Those useless moments spent on social networking, TV, blah, blah, blah. Those moments add up, and those moments can change your life. 


 

I still have a long way to go. I'm still working diligently to make a change. You can too! Who's with me?

MARRIAGE:
Of course you guys can't see the changes in my marriage (maybe you can?). The point is, I love my husband immensely. He is a treasure among men. He works HARD, provides for our needs, keeps me laughing and is perfectly made for our marriage.

However, no marriage is without difficulty. Especially when you live 300+ miles from each other and are constantly stressed by the demands of independent, though together, lives. With that said, I (maybe not so much him) constantly tried to make my marriage fit into a mold of what the world expected. I've been very preoccupied with the thoughts and suggestions of what others thought OUR life together should be. I found myself getting really upset and worked up about what my friends and family members thought of our decisions and our love for each other. These snippets and insertions into our lives constantly ate at me, and often still do. 

I'm here to tell you that I finally realized that the opinions and molds of others, (though some advice is welcomed and appreciated) will no longer be a principle that my marriage and our future depends on. I'm sorry I'm not sorry?

Through God and God alone, I'm learning what real love and real marriage is. It's relinquishing control and submitting yourself and your marriage to a plan that is more devine than your own (or the plans of others). Sometimes that means that I have to submit (bad word, eh?) my plans and surmised leadership to Timmy. I strive daily to consider what his thoughts are, and put them ahead of my own. Through the changes in our lives, I've fallen in love with him even more. Second to God, he is my heart's desire. Where he leads, I will follow (though, often begrudgingly). 

So to those that attempt to: tell us when and where and how we should have children, where we should move, what our bills need to look like, where we should spend our time and energy, treat us like children when we make bad decisions...or good ones...I say, "We got this. With God on our side, we got this. We will go wherever we are led, and we'll depend on God and each other to see it through. I appreciate your concern, but we've got a life to live and a marriage to get on with over here. We've got a life to live and faith to place. I hope you love us anyway, because we love you." 

Don't get this advice confused with the "clicks" I was talking about earlier. Because I did get a "click" in this instance, too. It came from faith and hope in God and the love and trust of my husband.

To my husband: I can't imagine my life without you. You are every dream I've ever had, come true. No matter what, we'll make it. No matter how, we got this. I will strive daily to place more trust in your encouragement and support. I love you more than all the sand in the desert and all the stars in the sky. 



FAITH (the most important):

Here we go, she's going to talk about God. Yep, you're right. 

"4. I regret that I've been such a cynic. I have definitely developed myself into a "I have to see, touch, smell, hear and taste it before I believe it" person. I regret letting slip the faith I once had...in people, in family, in friends and in God. Some people may not want to hear it, and that's fine...we all have our own prerogatives. However, I honestly felt I was a better person when I put more trust in people and in spirituality. Life gets pretty old when you're constantly questioning the intentions and validity of everything. While knowledge is power, faith is fulfilling. This, is something I've slowly and painfully come to understand."

These were my words. The were MY words on my last blog post. I grieve the fact that I reached this point. Grieved it. In February, we started going back to church. Before that I constantly looked for excuses. God was lukewarm in my heart. 

With that said, God and I are still working with each other. I have had a lot of "click" moments on this walk. I have them daily. I can't fathom why I blamed God for so much of what was wrong in the world, the inadequacies in myself and in others. God is entirely good. How can I even begin to understand perfect love and grace in a broken world? How can I even begin to explain it?

It started like this: I got in the Word and started having moments of gut/heart-wrenching awareness of God's presence. I believe it's because I was searching for it. Often I would go to God like He was a magic genie and only when I wanted His input. I would only listen when He was giving me what I wanted.

People often ask my how I know that God is real. Here's how: I've FELT him. I knew He was real when I was about 14 years old. When His presence literally brought me to my knees. I don't know what happened after that. I had a fire for a few weeks, then it died. I didn't nurture that relationship. I fought it because it wasn't worldly pleasing. It wasn't cool. I went to college, and become completely and hopelessly cynical. I'm ashamed to say there were years where I didn't even believe that He was real anymore. It was much easier to blame God for every bad thing in this world. After all, he has devine authority. How does He allow all this hate? How does He allow all this war and turmoil and strife and heartache and death and so on and so forth. Why are Christians the WORST people ever?

Then it "clicked." This stuff isn't GOD, this stuff is purely human. God is wholly good, entirely love. We succumb to worldliness, we hate, we break our own hearts, we start wars over religion or otherwise, we hate people who aren't like us, we blame, we regress, we stray so far away that we blame the only thing that loves us regardless of what we have done. We are not perfect. We will never be.

It hit me out of no where. I was on a run, earphones in, breathing hard, almost to the 3 mile mark...He hit me. The next thing I know, I was crying. Yes, imagine that sight. In a moment of weakness, BAM, strength out of no where. The overwhelming weight and lightness of knowing God is there with you. Then, things began changing.

From that moment onward I have been actively seeking the face of God. Through church, quiet time, Psalm reading, prayer journaling, etc. I have experienced several more moments of overwhelming presence, the reminder of things not seen. However, I'm content with knowing He is always here. Even when I can't see Him or feel that overwhelming presence, I know without a doubt, He is here with me.

I still struggle. I still worry. I still say things that are completely hurtful and ugly. But, everyday, I get a little closer and often I take three steps back. My deepest prayer is to be more like Christ in my interactions. No matter what you believe, Jesus is love. Wether you believe He is the Savior or not, I cannot think of one story where Jesus wasn't fully and completely love. No matter what people did, or thought, or acted on...He showed them nothing but love. Though He was tortured, beaten and murdered He prayed for His accusers. Always love. It all comes down to love.

How has this changed my life:
I've stopped drinking, it makes me into something I hate.
I work hard in all things.
I attempt to see patients, more patiently. 
I love my friends and family with a fervor that I've never experienced.
I'm better able to let things roll off my shoulder. 
I worry less. 
I sleep better (I'm sure the exercise helps).
I'm not ashamed to talk about God to anyone. 
I know there are better things to come.
I will grow where I am planted.
I am loved, fully and unequivocally by a holy Creator who lives within me. I rest in that.

I'm going to fall short. I am broken. I am a Christian, but I am certainly not worthy of praise or adoration. That belongs to God alone. I'm not worthy of love this perfect. But, I'll take it and every day strive to remember that I don't have to deserve it.  A love undeserved, for all people. Amazing. Amazing love.



TOMATO, THE HUBS.
We've already touched on my marriage. So let me update you on things Tomato.

He is still living in NC. Still commuting every weekend to be closer to me and the dogs. He's enjoying life right now. Constantly in the woods. He's still not made a kill with that bow, or the rifle. But, he's trying, haha. 

PCS orders will be coming up soon. I'm not sure there is anyway that we'll be able to stay in Lexington. We've gotten to the point where we are OK with that. We know that God is in this and won't lead us somewhere we can't flourish. 

THE BOYS.
The boys are the boys. They keep my laughing and are an example of unconditional love. Alpha will pee in the house out of spite. Zero, loves on me when no one else is there to do it. 

I really hope that one day I'll be the person my dogs think I am. 


Song of the Day:
Your Love is a Song by Switchfoot






Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finally I felt the calming breeze

Stepping out to watch the final scene
After all, it's you, my pride, and me
I can't speak, whatever I can speak


ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.
So yeah, I'm about to take this blog to an unintentional morbid direction. Well, I guess it's intentional since I just pointed it out. However, the idea for it didn't start that way.

As we get closer to the projected "end of the world", I've been doing a lot of reflecting, as it were. No, I don't actually think the world is going to end on December 21. With that said, though, I have been thinking a lot about my life and what I've become. I've been reflecting on all that I've accomplished and failed at. Numerous, countless, immeasurable failures and successes. Twenty-five years of life. Twenty-five, what a long/short life it's been.

So the question is this: If I were to die tomorrow, am I who I wanted to be?

So let's start.

PART ONE

Regrets and what they have taught me:

1. I regret that I didn't forgive my father while he was alive. I wish that I had been able to accept his apology and extend mine before it was too late.  I've spent a lot of my life angry at him. For what? It has taken 25 years for me to learn that anger is detrimental to the person who is angry. It almost never effects the person who is the subject of it. And now, I will never be able to take that anger back...no matter how well deserved it was in the first place. This is perhaps the single thing I regret most.

2. I regret all the worrying I've done. For most of my life I've let worry and anxiety control me. Wether it has been grades, work, relationships, money, health or a scratch on the side of my car. I have let worry control me to an often detrimental level. There was a point in my life that it controlled me so much that I couldn't sleep, couldn't leave my house, couldn't trust my dogs with a caretaker, and would stay up all night to make sure the people that I loved most stayed alive through the night. I'm not kidding. I distinctly remember, as a child, waking up in the middle of the night to make sure my brother and sister were still breathing. Worry, like anger, is detrimental only to the person doing it. I often have to remind myself that "this too shall pass" or ask myself, "is this really going to matter tomorrow?", "will this fix anything?", "will this stop anything bad from happening?" I still struggle with mind numbing anxiety and I'm tired of losing countless hours to it. I regret the days I've already handed to worry.

3. I regret being "that girl." This may seem trivial to you, but it's something that will sneak up on me ever so often. I had a friend around my freshman/sophomore years of college. The friendship with this person began in my Senior year of high school. This was someone that was very important to me, I didn't realize exactly how important until sometime later.  This person was truly the definition of everything a friend should be. I hurt this person in unspeakable ways, because I could not bear to be honest with myself. At the time I blamed it on "coming out of a long relationship" and the ever popular "it's not you it's me" scenario. I have not spoken to this person in about 5.5 years. The last time I "spoke" to him was through email. It was in this email that I apologized for being a liar, a coward, hurtful and an all around jerk. I'm not sure if this is something we all go through in our lives. I'm not sure it should be. However, it was truly a defining moment for me. I know that I'm being completely vague here, but just know that I was hurtful and heartbreaking. I often find myself missing this friendship. In the same breath, I've learned what it means to be on the giving side of pain. How easy it is to get caught up in your own selfishness. I've learned how important it is to be careful with the feelings of other people. Too little, too late.

4. I regret that I've been such a cynic. I have definitely developed myself into a "I have to see, touch, smell, hear and taste it before I believe it" person. I regret letting slip the faith I once had...in people, in family, in friends and in God. Some people may not want to hear it, and that's fine...we all have our own prerogatives. However, I honestly felt I was a better person when I put more trust in people and in spirituality. Life gets pretty old when you're constantly questioning the intentions and validity of everything. While knowledge is power, faith is fulfilling. This, is something I've slowly and painfully come to understand.

5. My final regret (for this project anyway). I wish that I would have carried out more of my childhood dreams. I know I've got loads of time for this, but sometimes I feel as if I didn't get to ANY of them. I'm working on photography now. What about the guitar, the abs, the trip to Australia, watching the ballet, meeting Hanson, swimming in the Pacific Ocean? Why do the majority of adults give up on these seemingly stupid things? I mean, how awesome would life be if I could say that I did all these things? I mean, there are a few that I've done, a few things I added a long the way. But darn it, I want to learn to play the guitar. I even have one! I think we should often remind ourselves what it's like to be a child, to accomplish those things we set out to do when we were 8 years old. I mean, I'm only 25, but in 10 years I'll only be 35. What then? What if I still haven't done these things? The only thing they'll do is make life more epic.


I challenge anyone that reads this to ask yourself the same question: "Am I who I want to be? What are my regrets? What have they taught me?"

Trust me, I have loads more regrets. For those who demand that they have none, I call bull. No life is perfect. We learn from regrets, from mistakes. Be thankful for regret, mistakes and learning.

I'll get part two up sometime before the end of the world. It'll be a bit more positive. Swear.


TOMATO, THE HUBS.
This weekend I went to Wilmington. It's the first time I've been up that way since Tomato came home from deployment. We had fun though. First we went to an "Ugly Christmas Sweater Party" then went to this little Greek place and ate some baklava.

I'm really learning to appreciate the time I have with my husband. Wether it's in a tiny Greek Deli eating baklava or in my living room watching The Walking Dead.

He is everything. Everything.



THE BOYS.
I've decided to shorten that. Just FYI. 

Zero, is zero. I've never met a sweeter dog, and I've cuddled quite a few dogs. I was sad that he couldn't go with us to Wilmington this weekend. He hates the car. However, he and Alpha did pose quite well for this Christmas photo with Santa Paws. 




Alpha did go with us. Last minute we didn't board them. Alpha loved his mini vacation and he's an awesome car rider. 





Song of the Day:
Pride by Manchester Orchestra



                                                                                        


Sunday, November 18, 2012

This love is like water

and water gets rough
Had all I can stand
but I can't get enough
Let me love you again, 
give it one more try
Oh if the good Lord's willin'
and the creek don't rise


ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.
Well hello there party people! 
It's nice to write again. 

A lot has happened. I guess you imagined so since I haven't written since the beginning of September. 
So here's a little update. Most of you already know what's going on in my life anyway, but I'm going to reiterate because today I like redundancy. 

So September:
I donated bone marrow. We know this. I was on the news and got an incredible amount of attention. If you know me you know that attention, in particular, is not my most comfortable of positions. However, I believe that the NMDP received an influx of volunteers due to the publicity. I'm so glad that I could help out. It was an amazing experience for me and I would highly recommend everyone sign up. I'm serious. 

I did begin having a bit of right hip trouble but it wasn't anything that couldn't be patched up. I think I'm 100% now. I just found out about two days ago that I will be donating peripheral stem cells to the same patient in the near future. The good news is this means she did not reject my bone marrow and has engrafted and created 50% of my cells. They want to get her to a higher percentage so that's what I have to do the peripheral donation. This is similar to a blood donation, just longer...and more needles. This, I'm not looking forward to. However, if you're going to go, go all the way. 

Anyway, that about does it with the bone marrow thing. I'll keep ya'll updated. 

We also attempted to have my brother live with me during the end of this month. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and I ended up dropping him off at a Greyhound station with his guitar and $5 spending money. This may sound harsh, but it's the best thing that could have happened for everyone involved. I didn't speak about this on facebook, mostly because I was ashamed of how everything ended, of how hurt I was.

 I learned many life lessons during this time. Lessons that I thought I had already learned, but obviously did not. 

1. You can't change anyone, they have to want to change themselves.
2. It doesn't matter how much you give someone. Giving doesn't promote motivation. It doesn't promote a grateful heart. It doesn't buy you love or respect.
3. The people you love the most, let you down the hardest. 
4. The definition of tough love is letting go.
5. The definition of unconditional love is letting go.
6. The power of words, especially hurtful ones. No matter how thick skinned you are, we all feel the effects of words. It doesn't matter how "hard" you think your heart is. You are not impervious to being hurt. 
7. People who think they know everything, know a lot about nothing. This is true for both sides of an argument.
8. Let go of anger, it only hurts the angry person. 
9. Forgive, but don't forget. 
10. The unconditional and powerful love that my family has for me. 

I left this situation with a clear conscience. I know that I did all that I could possibly do. Maybe one day I'll get to give the chance that was given to me when I was a teenager. The chance that changed my life. The words that Mr. Dan spoke to me on the day that he picked me up from my grandmother's house mean so much to me now, "You're getting this, because you WANT this. We'll never give up on you, don't give up on yourself. I'm proud of you."

October: 
My favorite month of the year. 
The fall colors and Halloween. 

I loved going to the zoo with Colin, even though he was scared of my Panda mask. 

Jonathan and Becca came to visit in an attempt to evacuate Hurricane Sandy. 
They made it here in once piece and we had a really good visit. 

I've been taking pictures...ALL THE TIME. I just can't believe how many people want me to do this for them. It really is humbling and helping me to be a better hobbyist. I can't wait to see where the next few months take me with that. 

November:

We had an election. I voted Libertarian. Ha. 

Well, since we're still in Novemer, I'll leave it at that. A quick update. 


TOMATO, THE HUBS.
This past weekend Tomato and I attended our SIXTH Marine Corps Birthday Ball. SIX. I can't even believe that. The USMC Birthday Ball is special to us because it was technically our "first date."
It was the start to a very funny story actually. 

Tomato and I actually met a few weeks prior to the ball. He apparently thought I was "cute" which was funny in itself given the details of that event...but anyway, he invited me to the ball. 

I was not interested in dating him. I told him, "That's fine, but just as friends."
Fast forward to night of...he tried to kiss me. 
I turned my head, he didn't get a kiss. 
I was appalled. 

Because of that, he actually got me on the SECOND date weeks later on a bet. The rest was history.

I love these pictures. They make my heart smile. We actually would be on our seventh if it weren't for deployment. However, that's the Marines. 
 


ZERO, THE DRAGON and ALPHA, THE DOODLE.
I just love these guys to pieces. 

Alpha has become a full fledged addition to the family. You don't see Zero without Alpha, or Alpha without Zero. It's hard to believe he's been around since March. He thinks he's a lab, it's adorable. 

Zero is still snugglin', sheddin' and lickin' like a champ.


Song of the Day:
If the Creek Don't Rise by Dylan LeBlanc


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You go

Wherever you go today
You go today

ASHLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER.
To say that a lot has been going on would be a gross understatement of epic proportions. I've been really behind on updating this blog, for various (good!) reasons.

I had a birthday, I'm 25 now. I'm closer to 30 than 20. Weird.
For my birthday this year I got one of the best opportunities in the world.
The opportunity to help save a life. Literally.

I don't know if I've ever referenced it before in this blog but when I was in high school I had a really good friend, who knows who she is. Anyway, one day before graduating we compiled a list in journals. A "bucket list" of sorts. In these books are various obtainable/unobtainable goals from "Going on Oprah" to "Never being late for a single college class." Well unfortunately for me, the latter of those two goals did not work out well.  Anyway, we hoped to accomplish as many of these goals as we possibly could before we died. I don't know if she is still attempting, but I certainly try. Though, "starting a band" probably will never have a check mark beside it.

I still have this "journal" somewhere. The "list" isn't the only gem in this book, but so is my name translated in Chinese and various jedi/sith autographs from my midnight Star Wars showing days.

I've completed a lot of goals on this list , there are a lot that I never will.

I tell you this because this past week I had the opportunity to carry out one (and probably the most epic) of these goals.
- Save a life.

My donation story:
I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm an insane perfectionist. This is important.
This is important because it's how I ended up on the donor registry in the first place.

Five years ago, while still in undergrad one of my professors gave me an opportunity to earn extra credit on an exam (it was the difference between a B+ and an A), so gladly and without ANY hesitation or thought, I accepted. I carried my hiney to the student union and gave a buccal swab (basically a q-tip swabbed in your mouth) and placed my name on a bone marrow donor registry. No biggie. I got an A, all was right in the world.

Fast forward 5 years later.

I'm married.
My last name is changed.
I've had three different addresses.
I've been a nurse for three years at three different hospitals.
I've got two dogs and bills to pay.
I'm definitely not thinking about the bone marrow registry.
But apparently the registry is thinking about me.

So through CIA capabilities, I'm sure, they found me living in Lexington. I got a letter that stated I was a preliminary match for a middle aged patient with aplastic anemia. So I called them to let them know I got the letter. I definitely didn't think I would pass the health screening so I answered their questions and promptly got a call back.

"We need you to go to your local LabCorp and do confirmatory testing. We realize this is going quicker than it normally would but this patient is in a severe state and this could absolutely be the patient's last chance."

So I went.


I was a perfect match.

"Crazy, what are the odds of that?! I'm not even related to this person!" That was my first thought. Then, "OMG, I've gotta help this woman. What if she has a family? What if her daughter is getting married? What if she's about to celebrate 25 years of marriage? It's almost the holidays! What if it were my brother/mother/sister/friend?"

There was absolutely no question about the decision I was about to make.
I was absolutely going to do whatever it took to help this woman and her family.
I would want someone to do the same for mine.

A little about the diesease:

Aplastic Anemia- A disorder in which bone marrow is unable to make enough blood cells to keep you healthy. A very rare but serious disease, otherwise known as "bone marrow failure." You can treat the disease with blood transfusions and medications. However, bone marrow and stem cell transplants are required to cure the disease.  With blood transfusions alone a patient with this disease has a life expectancy of 18 months to two years, on average. With bone marrow there is a 60-90% chance of curing it. This information was obtained from a lot of reading material. Haha.

I knew/know very little about this person...just that she was a severe case of aplastic anemia, her age, her gender, and that I was her "back up donor". Apparently the first donor had backed out.

A week later, we went to Greenville for a physical. There were more needles, EKGs, radiology studies and driving.

There they found that my own hemoglobin (the red cells that carry oxygen) was too low and put me on supplemental iron for a couple of weeks.

One pint of autologous (my own blood donated to myself and coincidently the HARDEST part of this whole thing) and numerous pregnancy tests later...I've got a surgery date.



Day 1: My husband and I fly to Washington, DC to prepare for surgery. That night for my "last meal" we had Thai food with some friends from college who lived in the area. We also explored the District a bit.












Day 2: At 1130 in the morning a representative of the hospital picks me up from the hotel. There I get yet another pregnancy test and am prepared for surgery. I get a large bore IV in my right hand, kiss my husband goodbye and am promptly wheeled to the OR. The anesthesiologist looks at me and says, "Don't worry, I've got the good stuff right here" as she taps her front pocket. I start seeing bright colors and a few seconds later I wake up with a bulky bandage on my back and I'm being wheeled to recovery.

I'm told that after waking up I became ill and required nausea medication. I don't remember too much of this, thankfully.
My throat was sore (from intubation) and I had a somewhat cumbersome bandage on my lower back with a mild amount of pain.

I received a blood transfusion in PACU and required a really long time to pee, but eventually we got to our room where the hospital catered a meal of filet mignon and cheesecake with tons of strawberries and whipped cream.

This is where Timmy told me, "I saw them take away your marrow in a cooler! It was pretty neat." That made my heart smile.

I didn't sleep really well in this hospital. Mostly due to the in and out, the numerous vital sign checks, blood draws and the necessity for urination approximately every 15 minutes. I enjoyed speaking with my nurses and at the end of this hospitalization they didn't want me to leave.








Day 3: We stayed the night in the hotel again. I did pretty well...walking distances made me pretty dizzy so we took it slow. Still, not a lot of pain.

Day 4: I woke up around 0700 with a lot of nausea and had to call the doctor. She assured me this was normal with post anesthesia. So, I drank some ginger ale, took some benadryl and laid down a bit. I was able to eat a cheeseburger at the airport a few hours later. No biggie. Still, not too much pain.

We got home, I snuggled with my dogs. We promptly bought some Mickey Mouse bandaids for my  two puncture sites and settled back into life.

Yesterday I even attempted to clean the house. Ya'll know I can't let that go. I've only required two doses of tramadol (non narcotic pain medication) in the past 24 hours. Right now, I don't even feel like anything happened unless I touch the area.


Would you do this again?
I would do this a million more times if I could.  I think when we hear "bone marrow donation" a million naughty and painful images come to our heads. Really, it wasn't so bad. I mean, there is a huge needle being placed into your pelvis...but you can't even feel it.

I'm a little tired and become very slightly sore with exertion. The real test will happen tomorrow at work. 12 hours in the ER, here I come...with restrictions of course.

I don't feel like a hero. I kept getting asked if I do. However, this truly taught me what a miracle life is and how some people have to fight harder to keep it. It's taught me not to take life or health for grantid.

Mostly though, I keep thinking about this woman...whoever and wherever she is. I keep thinking that right now my bone marrow is making it's way into her bones to give her renewed hope and possibly a second chance at life. I don't know who she is, I don't know if I'll ever have to opportunity to meet her or her family. However, none of that really matters. Even if this transplant doesn't end up saving her life and my "goal" was never accomplished, I hope that this will give her more time with her family and a sense that there are people (that she doesn't even know) who are fighting with her.

To my family, friends and amazing coworkers.
Without the love and support from the people closest to me I wouldn't have been able to do any of this.  My family rallied to help with support and the care of my dogs during the trip. My friends offered me so much love and encouragement. The staff at Lexington Medical Center rallied and covered my ER shifts, gave a wonderful outpouring of love, support and offered me much needed education.

It's moments like these that you find out truly what the people closest to you are worth. I wouldn't replace a single person in my life. You are all heroes to me.

It takes more than one person to make a miracle, it takes several interactions, a lot of minds, hands and above all else: a lot of hope. I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to be used as an instrument in what can possibly be the miracle that saved a life.



To this patient: I pray that you recover, that you get to spend more time with those you love, that you keep faith and continue to have hope. We're on your side.


Sign up!
I don't have extra credit points to hand out, or chocolate, or money....but if you are able and if you want  you can sign up to be a bone marrow registry member at bethematch.org.

I really hope you will. This has truly been one of the best experiences of my life.


There are truly a million other wonderful things I can say about this program, it's goals and my experience. So if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.


Song of the Day: Mykonos by Fleet Foxes